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A Breath of Fresh Air – The Truth About Indoor Air Quality




We can all agree that breathing is pretty important to sustaining our life. Did you know that the quality of the air we breathe can be key to our overall physical and mental well-being? For many people, traveling to areas where the air is fresh and clean provides immense enjoyment. For many reasons, the quality of our indoor air is different and does not compare to air from the outdoors. In this article, we will discuss some of those reasons and steps you can take to help ensure your family enjoys the best indoor air quality possible.


Interesting fact: On average, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors (EPA estimate), where pollutants are frequently 200 – 500 % higher than the outdoors because of insufficient air exchange.


What is the Air Exchange Rate?


The air exchange rate is a measure of the air volume added to or removed from a space. In short, if your windows are open and fans are on, you are exchanging indoor air for outdoor air. If your windows are closed (like mine are most of the time) you may not be exchanging enough air.


Other Indoor Air Quality Factors


Besides “stale” air due to lack of exchange, there are other factors that can impact the quality of our indoor air. These may include scary things like:

  • Mold

  • Radon

  • Asbestos

  • CO2

  • Pesticides

  • Ozone (from some air cleaners)

  • Pet Dander and more


Mold



How do you know if you have mold in your home? Mold is produced via multiple sources such as leaky pipes, condensation, stormwater, and high humidity. There are thousands of different types of molds. Fortunately, though, there only twelve common types of mold that you are most likely to encounter indoors. These molds include:

  • Acremonium

  • Alternaria

  • Aspergillus

  • Aureobasidium

  • Chaetomium

  • Cladosporium

  • Fusarium

  • Mucor

  • Penicillin

  • Stachybotrys

  • Trichoderma

  • Ulocladium


These molds vary in terms of severity, how they grow, and where they are found within the home. Some molds are visibly apparent, some are detected through their musty smell, and others are less conspicuous, hiding behind walls and under floors. Hidden molds may only be evident to homeowners based upon physical symptoms/reactions residents experience – such as difficulty breathing, bloody noses, or frequent headaches.


Knowing and understanding the types of mold in your indoor environment is essential as some are toxic and can have serious health consequences. Toxic molds are best handled by professionals trained in mold removal and remediation.


Mold Testing


Mold Testing is an excellent option for home or business owners concerned that there may be mold within the interior of their property. Professionals (like Certified Property Inspection) are trained in the best methods of mold testing. By taking air or physical samples, the type, toxicity, and severity of mold can be determined. These tests are vital and useful to help develop the best course of action to eradicate mold within your home.

Radon


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is formed by the breakdown of uranium (and other

elements) in soil, rock, and water. Our senses cannot detect radon; thus, without proper testing, there is no way to know how much radon may be present within your indoor environment.

The EPA recommends that home buyers know/understand the level of radon within a home that they are considering buying. If the seller does not have a recent radon test available for you to review, you should choose to have the test done before closing. The EPA also recommends that radon mitigation efforts should be used on all homes with levels higher than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).


Radon Testing


Radon measurement devices are used to detect the gas. Outdoors, radon mixes with fresh air diluting its concentration. However, indoors radon can accumulate to higher concentrations, at which point there may be a cause for concern.

Radon enters the home wherever it can find an opening where the is contact between the soil and the home. These points of contact are cracks in foundation floors and walls; joints; pipes; posts; floor drains; sump pumps; and window wells.


Here is a useful link to help determine estimated levels of radon around Maryland by zipcode: https://maps.health.maryland.gov/phpa/eh/radon/ Please note that this map should not be construed as a definitive guide to radon levels in your home. For an accurate reading, you can request a radon test.


Asbestos


Homes built before the 1980s have the potential to expose homeowners and their families to asbestos that may be lurking within the cement, floor tiles, insulation, walls, and pipes. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is mined from rock and soil.


Due to its resilience and heat resistance, asbestos has been used in many building materials, including:

  • Roofing shingles

  • Flooring and Ceiling tiles

  • Cement products

  • Paper products

If you live in an older home, it is advisable to know if your home contains asbestos before you tackle a do-it-yourself home project. Tearing down ceilings and walls or tearing out floor tiles and old pipes might release asbestos fibers and contaminate the air you breathe.


According to Asbestos.com, this fiber has been linked to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases.



Asbestos Testing


If your home predates 1980 and you are considering updating your home, we recommend that you schedule asbestos testing first.


Carbon Monoxide (CO2)


Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas, carbon monoxide, is impossible to detect without proper equipment in the home.


Some sources of carbon monoxide include:


· Gas stoves

· Gas-powered equipment such as generators

· Unvented Gas or kerosene heaters

· Leaking Furnaces

· Blocked, disconnected, leaking, or improperly sized flues

· Incomplete oxidation during combustion of gas-powered appliances and equipment

· Tobacco smoke

· Back-drafting from gas water heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, or furnaces


Health effects of Carbon Monoxide


The health effects of carbon monoxide can vary depending upon the level and duration of the exposure. Low exposure might cause some fatigue in healthy people and even chest pain in those with heart disease. Moderate exposure can reduce brain function, impair vision, and might cause angina. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, confusion, headaches, impaired vision, nausea, and can be fatal at very high levels of exposure.


Safety Tips


While installing a CO2 detector is recommended, they are not always 100% reliable. Thus, we also recommend following these safety tips to help minimize potential exposures:


  • Ensure gas appliances are correctly adjusted

  • Repair leaks promptly

  • Do not idle car inside the garage

  • Have a professional inspect, clean, and tune-up heating systems annually

  • Annual chimney inspections

  • Use exhaust fans vented to outdoors installed over gas stoves

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.


Pesticides


The EPA reports that 75% of American households use pesticides products indoors each year. Additionally, other pesticides found in homes are contaminated dust or soil that floats or is tracked in from outdoors. When using pesticides, be sure to follow manufacturer's directions and increase ventilation strictly. Do not store pesticides inside your home and properly dispose of empty containers. Keeping your indoor spaces clean and well-ventilated are vital in avoiding pest and odor problems.


Ozone and Pet Dander


Use due diligence when purchasing air purifiers, as some increase the ozone levels within the home. The EPA offers guidance on air purifiers on their website here: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/ozone-generators-are-sold-air-cleaners.


In addition to making your pet feel pampered and healthy, regular brushing and shampoos can help minimize the amount of pet dander in the home and help improve your indoor air quality!

At Certifed Property Inspection, we are committed to helping our clients understand the quality of the air they breathe indoors. Contact us for an air quality inspection.


410-818-0088

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